(In this post Andy Synn reviews the new album by Nashville’s Enfold Darkness, released on July 14 by The Artisan Era.)
Audacious, ostentatious, and more than a little ridiculous… the long-awaited (and much delayed) second album from Nashville metallers Enfold Darkness is either going to have you grinning from ear to ear, or wrinkling your nose up in distaste, depending on your tolerance for outrageous metallic bombast.
And although we’re not quite talking full-on Fleshgod Apocalpyse levels of OTT excess, the band’s kitchen-sink approach to blending elements from different metallic sub-genres – resulting in a sound which can, to the disgust of genre purists, probably be best summed up as “Symphonic Blackened Technical Melodic Death Metal” – definitely falls into the “love it or loathe it” camp.
So the question is… are you going to love it, or… not?
With song-titles like “Lairs of the Ascended Masters” and “The Dirge of the Surrogate Invictus”, Adversary Omnipotent is a shamelessly extravagant concept album about… immortal cosmic space-demons, or something like that… that fully embraces the inherent silliness of Metal as a genre.
I mean, let’s be honest – screaming your lungs out about death/war/zombies/aliens/demons while attempting to play everything as loud/fast/slow as possible is, on paper, a very silly proposition indeed.
But it works. You can’t deny that. As a medium for conveying ideas and emotion Metal allows us to explore and express things which simply wouldn’t be possible in other styles/genres.
And Enfold Darkness clearly understand this.
As a result, although there’s something unabashedly geeky about the central sci-fi-fantasy narrative spun throughout this album, the band’s devil-may-care attitude and their undeniably passionate (not to mention technically impressive) performance here makes for one hell of a gripping listen whether you buy into the storyline or not.
It helps of course that pretty much every song is a hi-tech, high-fidelity maelstrom of flamboyant fretwork, rapid-fire vocals, and gloriously cinematic melodies, underpinned by some absolutely stunning percussion courtesy of one-man drumming dervish Greg Vance, all delivered at borderline ludicrous speeds and performed with all the breathless intensity of a band dead-set on making up for nine years of missed opportunities.
But – and it’s a big but – while there may not be any particularly bad songs here, it’s hard not to feel like there may be a few too many of them.
I’ll grant you of course that the album’s 67-minute run-time means that you certainly get more than enough bang for your buck, and neither new nor old fans are likely to feel short-changed by the wealth of material (all thirteen tracks of it) on offer.
But its sheer length is also its Achilles heel, as several of the songs – particularly in the back half – demonstrate an unfortunate tendency to either overrun or run together (or both), introducing an unavoidable sense of déjà vu into the proceedings the longer things go on.
Thankfully this isn’t a deal-breaker, at least not from where I stand, and with some slight tweaks – say a little judicious pruning and a greater willingness to self-edit – I could easily see the next Enfold Darkness album being a tighter, more focussed, experience without sacrificing the band’s obvious gift for epic extremity.
Ultimately this album’s biggest flaws – an excess of enthusiasm and an overload of ideas – are also, potentially, its biggest strengths. And while your own mileage may vary, I’m pleased to say that I found Adversary Omnipotent to be a welcome (if slightly exhausting) return from a band who still have all the tools and potential to go on to bigger and better things.